We see an example in the way newspapers that should know better talk so freely about “plots” against Mugabe's leadership of Zanu (PF) and “sell-outs” who talk about his health at embassy cocktail parties without putting those words in quotes. Without the quotes, they begin to sound paranoid.
After all, he is an old man; not old like me, but nearer to my late father's age. Is everyone who dares to discuss his obviously deteriorating health and what it implies for our future “plotting against him”?
Of course, in every political party there are individuals who see themselves as the next leader and try to persuade others to share this view of themselves. Quite often such a person will feel so sure that he or she could make a better lob of leading than the present leadership that s/he will try to hasten his/her ascent to the seat of power. It would be very surprising if a party like Zanu (PF), with its record, didn't include some people like that. So what is new?
But every political party is made up of different kinds of people, some more selfish and ambitious than others. The party would have to be in even worse shape than many of us think if it didn't contain some members who still remember with respect and maybe even a kind of love the high points of our Old Man's career. Such people will have some concern for him as a person, not just a “revolutionary icon”. They will recognise that he has earned an honourable retirement and a bit of rest. They may discuss their concerns that refusing to let him stand down, as he has shown signs of wanting to, is cruel, not only to us, but to the man they claim to honour by refusing him this right which every human society (except perhaps the Vatican) allows to everyone of his age.
It might be unwise to talk about this to servants of a foreign government, but diplomats are trained to be the sort of people you can easily talk to. It is their job to keep their ears open at all times and to create the kind of atmosphere in which most of us might say more than we intended. Politicians should remember this, but often they are just as gullible as the rest of us. If one has been indiscreet, that doesn't immediately earn him or her the label “plotter” or “sell-out”.
And as for the main Zanu factions (presumably the majority of party members) agreeing to “hijack” the coming congress “in pursuit of their regime change agenda”, wouldn't you think I was paranoid for talking like that if I had forgotten the quotation marks?Post published in: Opinions & Analysis